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Katrina & Political B.S.

September 7th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

Politics and disasters don’t mix.

Politics, disasters, and family definitely don’t mix.

I love my family. We’ve had our problems, but we deal with them and for the most part we all get along and nobody doubts each other’s love. We all know that we’re there for each other, and I know if I need my parents for anything they will do anything they can to help.

As anyone with a large family (like mine) can tell you, the more people there are in your family the bigger the chance you’ll have conflicting political views.

My father and I agree on some things and disagree on others. He’s a conservative, and I consider myself independent. I like to make my decisions one at a time and not go along with a large group of people on anything, thank you very much. This is not a statement I’d direct at my dad because our political discussions are always civil and we help each other see the various sides of any issue. Instead, that statement is directed at anyone who would ever my question not to belong to a political party. My parents always used the “if everyone was jumping off a bridge would you?” and I think it applies to politics as much as anything else.

This afternoon I received this email from my dad:

To All,

As we now endure a rash of Dem and liberal charges against President Bush regarding Katrina and New Orleans (while ignoring Dems NE Mayor Nagin and Governor XXX and their culpability), we now have a growing body of analysis regarding this horrible tragedy.

I wondered why so many people did not evacuate, even after the flood waters started rising. Here are a few articles that share additional POI.

Are any of you hearing Republicans scream about the negligence of Louisiana Dems (I’m not)? My local paper (the Lansing State Journal) is not covering any of this info.

——————————–

http://nationalreview.com/murdock/murdock200509071109.asp

Deroy Murdock

September 07, 2005, 11:09 a.m.
Bumblers, Not Bigots
The post-Katrina racism bunk.

“It is reported that black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive.”

———————————————-

http://nationalreview.com/novak/novak200509070829.asp

Michael Novak

September 07, 2005, 8:29 a.m.
A Fuller Picture
Beginning to understand what we are seeing in New Orleans.

There has been something askew in the reporting from New Orleans. It has bothered me for a week now. Finally, when I took a look at the 2000 census data on New Orleans, a lot became clearer.

I felt obliged to send him an e-mail from the perspective of someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about politics or bashing the president. I’m not a huge fan, but there’s a time for political B.S. and there’s a time to act. If you have any doubt what time it is now do the human race a favor and get lost.

My response:

Personally, I think any and all political bashing by either party is just a further example of one of the things we seem to do best in this country: Talk instead of act.

That being said, what I find appalling is how federal efforts seem to be impeding people from acting. I’m no expert, but it certainly appears to be a large enough disaster to where everyday people need to be able to help each other.

Things like this shouldn’t be happening:

http://thinkprogress.org/2005/09/04/worst-abandonments/

From the article:
“Three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don’t give you the fuel. Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines…”

Or this:
http://www.boingboing.net/2005/09/07/katrina_geek_dispatc.html

From the article:

” The BBC just called me. I am the only media inside the dome. We did a long interview and it’s going to be broadcast on Friday at 13:00 on their live webcast.

The media censorship here runs high. It was not easy to actually enter the dome as media. I am working with the group ‘Austin Airwaves’ and our badge says ‘PRESS’ in huge white letters on a red background. This has caused unending red tape. I have been the subject of removal a few times, bordering on a dozen. My camera draws the most fire.

I just heard we have the go ahead to put up the transmitter. I have no idea if that means we can broadcast or not. I assume it does because we have the FCC permits. The main issue here seems to be a total lack of leadership. No one with FEMA seems to know who their boss is. No one with the RedCross has authority. Everyone working for the owners (Reliant energy) of the dome is getting in our way. No photos. No entry. Attempted removal. Detainment.”

This isn’t a contest. The goal of all those people down there right now isn’t to shift votes to one side of the fence or the other, it’s to rebuild basic human needs (like power, sewer systems, running water, etc) and save lives.

It’s times like this I’m glad I consider myself an independent.

– J

I’m not trying to bash anyone’s particular political views. We’re all different and we believe different things. This is something the human race still seems to have trouble dealing with, even after a history full of intolerance, violence, and pain.

All I’m saying is they sent the wrong people to do the job. I’ve been in supervisory positions before, and during times of great need you don’t always have some super genius with perfect planning available. So you send who you have, even if they’re just the best of a mediocre group.

This does not excuse what happens once that person is actually on site and doing their job. And that’s where these problems (the important ones anyway) are rooted. FEMA is rewriting the definition of “bungle” at the moment, and the man in charge is responsible because he’s the head of FEMA, not because he reports to the President and you happen to like bashing Bush. Could Bush have appointed a better suited person to the position? Sure, but that’s not the problem RIGHT NOW is it? Why waste time with all this meaningless finger pointing when people are STILL DYING?

UPDATE: Yes people are still dying. But no, you won’t see any of them thanks to FEMA. Just like our “heroic soldiers dying in Iraq”, there is a federal ban on photographing the dead. I understand that there is a potential for media coverage of dead bodies in this situation to be disturbing and even unnecessary (how many times did we see those planes hit the WTC after 9/11?), but the plight of these people has to be spread, and, while I hate cliches, a picture really can speak a thousand words.

These conversations have consumed my office. I can’t go anywhere without overhearing somebody saying “So-and-so could’ve asked for help from such and such blah blah blah.” I really want to ask if they realize that everything they’re saying is in the past tense, and nobody is talking about the future.

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  1. September 7th, 2005 at 17:40 | #1

    You are an insightful person but I disagree with I see as you over-concilliatory, almost apologetic tone. Having been in leadership positions, you know how important character is. You know how important personal dedication and personal integrity is. There is a cost to being the boss. As the president, he had a duty to lead the response to this national emergency. Its not like the levees broke and flooded downtown new Orleans and there was a few hundre thousand dollars’ worth of damage, most of which will be borne out by insurance.
    An Act of God destroyed an area of the United States measuring close to 90,000 miles. This is a national emergency and he is the leader of this nation.
    As such, he had the responsibility for leading the national response.

    Giving Bush a pass and a patsy for every failing is something you wouldnt do for the president of your PTA or your investment club because it would garantee failure. You would certainly not allow your child to always have a great reason why something he is in charge of is messed up. You would not allow your wife to blame the dog or the kids or the neighbors every time something went awry in the home.
    Bush has a responsibility to protect the United States, to defend its Constitution and to pass it on intact to its future.
    What makes me feel that it is wrong to simply try and stay neutral when the leader of this country messes up is the duty we have to the continuity of this nation. We can’t allow bad decisions to ruin this country econmically, geopolitically or culturally. America shouldn’t be made to fall like Rome.
    I am not a “liberal” or a “Leftist”. I believe in a strong national defense and I admire the concept of Empire. I don’t believe in abortion and I think the country needs a parental notification law for teens and preteens seeking abortions. There are many things the Conservatives stand for that I support however the way its being played out now is like some kind of bad movie. The Conservatives are a cult in their devotion to Bush.They refuse to present him with any bill for his cost of being Boss. There are no standards for him and nothing is ever his responsibility. Any admission that things aren’t absolutely perfect is a concession to the democrats. That is an invitation for disaster.

  2. September 7th, 2005 at 22:27 | #2

    Its a shame that information about emergency management, planning and response are not better understood by the general population. Emergency managers have summarily failed in this regard, and they’re too busy actually responding to do the education today.

    The operations you referred to when you commented “things like this shouldn’t be happening”, like the fuel example and the couple of trucks of water example are called freelancing, or freelance operations. Here’s a scenario I’d ask you to consider…

    Immediately following Hurricane Francis, when the power was out, water was short and everyone had a short temper, a local ice plant wanted to announce they had ice available. Against advice, this word got out. Next thing you know – folks are fighting at the ice plant over how much ice it was fair for an individual to get, who had what place in line, etc. Mayhem. Why? Because there was no security, there wasn’t anywhere near enough ice to go around, etc.

    Taken in isolation, many aspects of the Katrina response will not make sense. Taken in total, a few still may not, and there may even be folks responsible for failure, poor judgement, perhaps even overt wrongdoing. But the folks like themoney&thefame that are calling to whack the President because he’s the top dog… doesn’t make any sense. I guess if you don’t like the President you don’t like the President, but folks shouldn’t take a very small slice of knowledge and whatever sizzle the media is currently selling as the gospel.

  3. September 8th, 2005 at 10:46 | #3

    “… almost apologetic tone.”

    Just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t make it apologetic. And I’m not apologizing for anyone, least of all Bush. All I was saying is, at this point in time, I consider the head of FEMA more responsible for the minute-by-minute screw ups than Bush. There will be plenty of time to play the blame game AFTER people have shelter, food, and are fully reunited with their families and loved ones.

    “Giving Bush a pass and a patsy for every failing is something you wouldnt do for the president of your PTA or your investment club because it would garantee failure.”

    I’m not giving him a pass. You completely missed the point of what I was saying. There’s a time and a place to play the blame game and now is NOT the time.

    “An Act of God destroyed an area of the United States measuring close to 90,000 miles. This is a national emergency and he is the leader of this nation.
    As such, he had the responsibility for leading the national response.

    Correct. And it seems he might have screwed it up. Like I said before, there will be plenty of time to figure the specifics of that out later.

    “What makes me feel that it is wrong to simply try and stay neutral when the leader of this country messes up is the duty we have to the continuity of this nation. We can’t allow bad decisions to ruin this country econmically, geopolitically or culturally. America shouldn’t be made to fall like Rome.”

    Thank you for using this unprecedented disaster to further your own political views. I’m sure you don’t get enough chances to spout off your thoughts to anyone and everyone.

    Oh, by the way, “neutral” doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for my beliefs. Mostly it means I believe the two-party system is a completely load of horse shit. I will never hesitate to tell someone I think they’re wrong if they really mess something up, but when you’re in a position where it will takes MONTHS to get an accurate death count what positive difference will it make to point fingers?

    “I don’t believe in abortion and I think the country needs a parental notification law for teens and preteens seeking abortions.

    Once again, thank you for missing my biggest point. This has absolutely nothing to do with what I was talking about, and was only brought up in the context of your own personal beliefs and opinions. Way to go.

    “The Conservatives are a cult in their devotion to Bush.They refuse to present him with any bill for his cost of being Boss. There are no standards for him and nothing is ever his responsibility.”

    See? Everyone can find common ground 🙂

    One last thing: Get a spell-checker. Please!

  4. September 8th, 2005 at 10:57 | #4

    Hi Chris –

    First of all thank you for your comments. Some thoughts:

    “Immediately following Hurricane Francis, when the power was out, water was short and everyone had a short temper, a local ice plant wanted to announce they had ice available. Against advice, this word got out. Next thing you know – folks are fighting at the ice plant over how much ice it was fair for an individual to get, who had what place in line, etc. Mayhem. Why? Because there was no security, there wasn’t anywhere near enough ice to go around, etc.”

    I fully understand that type of situation. But I do think there’s a difference here. The specific story I referenced about the President of Jefferison Parish in New Orleans, who made the comments I cited, deals with a local government who was offered aid, and the federal government forcibly turned it away.

    Regardless, how does it make sense for FEMA to cut their emergency communications lines? I doubt the public will be in a big rush to mob their punch-down box from the telco. Why is it so important that only federal troops be allowed to deal with this disaster when the local authorities, who know the city better than anyone else, are forced to the back?

    “Taken in isolation, many aspects of the Katrina response will not make sense.”

    I couldn’t agree more with you on that one. The human mind can only get itself around so many things at once, and something this large needs the coordinated efforts of many.

    “I guess if you don’t like the President you don’t like the President, but folks shouldn’t take a very small slice of knowledge and whatever sizzle the media is currently selling as the gospel.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself 🙂

  5. September 8th, 2005 at 11:04 | #5

    Lord I hope this isn’t true.

  6. September 8th, 2005 at 11:47 | #6

    Comments from an EPA contractor currently working in New Orleans, reprinted from BoingBoing:

    Thanks for publishing my plea to get involved the other day. Unfortunately nothing has come of that. No one is proceeding at this point. However, plenty of opportunities to help refugees in Atlanta are now available, so that’s where my time has gone.

    My company cleans up waste industrial gas cylinders and specialty chemicals. As such we are in contact with the EPA regularly and often work for the government. As you might imagine, there is expected to be a large number of cylinders recovered from Katrina, and many will probably be in bad shape, or even unknowns, which can present hazard. Today a consultant who works with us and the EPA came back from the Gulf region. Here are some of the things that he had to report:

    * He said that the 30 elderly who died in the nursing home were simply forgotten. They were supposed to be rescued but someone dropped the ball and they died.

    * There are now 130,000 people working in the Gulf region, including 60,000 National Guard. Conditions for these workers, especially the contractors, are extremely hard. Many are sleeping in their cars and have to supply their own food and water. There is as yet no infrastructure in place to support this group. 80% of these people have terrible diarrhea and some have been hospitalized.

    * Under Homeland Security, FEMA is supposed to be in charge, but they have been marginalized due to their obvious screw ups. The National Guard is now in charge in the region and they have no experience in these matters. This is aggravating a bad situation.

    * The plan going forward for New Orleans is to demolish all the houses and burn them. There is nowhere to bury the waste in the region so they will incinerate it all. Before that can go on, they will have to search every house for chemical hazards.

    * They have found large numbers of seals in and around the houses in NOLA and no one is clear where they came from. An aquarium?

    * They are shooting hundreds of dogs a day to protect search and rescue workers. The Humane Society shelters in the region have over 4000 animals.

    * The entire Gulfport region is blocked by National Guard and only authorized contractors can get in. An RV campground has grown up outside the roadblock of 80 or more contractors hoping to get a piece of the action. These people have signs outside saying, “Mold Expert,” “Asbestos Contractor,” etc. They are having cookouts at their RVs just to try to get people to come and talk to them.

    * Cell phone towers are on their way from Germany to get the communication infrastructure back in place. The EPA ordered 40 satellite phones to get their people in contact. Those phones have arrived, but no one ordered SIM cards and these phones are currently useless.

    * This contractor has been organizing reverse osmosis (RO) water purification units from all over the country since last Tuesday. He has over 100 units of various sizes available to move into the region, but no one will give the go ahead. No one will sign their name to a piece of paper for fear recriminations later. He says that over 80 million pint bottles of water have been purchased at $0.75 each. The RO units can produce a gallon of water from contaminated water for $0.01 and they can produce thousands of gallons a day. Two are staged near the zone and these alone can produce 250,000 gallons per day. The Army has RO units, but every functional one, and every operator trained to use them, is in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    * The Navy ship Bataan, which has been widely reported to be available for producing water, can only do desalination, but cannot handle contaminated water.

    * All of the Army’s good gear, including vehicles and generators are overseas. Humvees and other vehicles in the Gulf region are breaking down frequently.

    Certainly I cannot attest to the absolute reliability of all this information, but it is from a reliable source who has been involved with EPA response to hazardous situations for 20 years.

    He confirms what everyone else has already said: the clusterfuck down there is beyond all imagining.

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